ILIndoor 2014 NLL Rookie of the Year: Dillon Ward of the Colorado Mammoth

In a tightly contested vote, Colorado's Dillon Ward emerged as ILIndoor's Rookie of the Year. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)
In a tightly contested vote, Colorado's Dillon Ward emerged as ILIndoor's Rookie of the Year. (Photo: Jack Dempsey)

Of all the years ILIndoor has been handing out its hardware for the National Lacrosse League, there hasn’t been a tighter decision than this one: the top rookie for 2014. From Week 1 to Week 18, there was no clear-cut frontrunner. From Garrett Thul in Philadelphia to Tyler Digby of the Vancouver Stealth. From Dillon Ward in Colorado, to Logan Schuss in Minnesota, who came into the season with the pressure of being the No. 1 overall draft pick. And while these 4 certainly were in the discussion all season long, they weren’t the only ones. Robert Church in Edmonton turned heads, Karsen Leung in Calgary was very impressive, and Ethan O’Connor did some strong work, albeit very much under the radar, in Toronto. But as Connor MacLeod in Highlander says, “There can be only one.” And that one, the National Lacrosse League Rookie of the Year for 2014, is Colorado Mammoth goaltender Dillon Ward.

This year, ILIndoor had 8 panel members on the vote. For each category, we listed 3 names in order of preference. A first-place vote brought in 5 points, a second-place vote was worth 4 and a third-place got 3 points. So, obviously, the fella with the most points is the category winner. So what follows is the voting breakdown for each player along with comments about why the winner is the winner.

On the panel for 2014 are: Bob Chavez, Stephen Stamp, Marty O’Neill, Teddy Jenner, Ty Pilson, Casey Vock, Brian Shanahan and Graeme Perrow.

And as we mentioned earlier, this was one of the most hotly contested categories that we remember seeing here in our 7 seasons at ILIndoor. But it was Ward who emerged on the strength of his play at perhaps the most key position in box lacrosse. Ward didn’t come into the season as Colorado’s No. 1 keeper, but he quickly made his case and it wasn’t long before he was entrenched in the role.

He finished the season with a 7-7 record with an 11.58 goals-against average and a save percentage of .773. He was no stranger to the highlight reel with some amazing stops during the season and making stops like that not only keeps the other team from scoring, but can provide much-needed momentum for your own team. Ward did just that, helping to keep the Mammoth’s playoff dreams afloat down the stretch.

Colorado won its final 3 games of the regular season, which included handing Edmonton its first loss of the season, and even though the Mammoth lost in the first round of the playoffs to Calgary, they did not go quietly. The Roughnecks needed overtime to win that game and even though the season ended in disappointment for the Mammoth, they know they’re set for the future with a rock in the cage named Dillon Ward.

Rookie of the Year voting

1. Dillon Ward (Colorado): 32 points (2 first-place votes)
2. Karsen Leung (Calgary): 27 points (2 first-place votes)
3. Logan Schuss (Minnesota): 25 points (3 first-place votes)
4. Robert Church (Edmonton): 12 points (1 first-place vote)

“We always give this award to the top-scoring rookie. Logan Schuss was great the second half of the season but Dillon Ward earned the starting job in Colorado and was a big reason that the Mammoth became a legitimate down the stretch.” – Brian Shanahan

“Have to go with a guy who was the most important to his team, and looking at how well their respective teams performed. I think Ward deserves a lot of credit for looking cool, calm and like a seasoned vet in the net for the Mammoth. Real crappy way for it to end with the bizarre pad situation. A great guy who brought a real sense of confidence to Colorado and helped them have a strong season even with some tough stretches.” – Casey Vock

“Schuss had 72 points this year, 3 more than Mark Matthews had last year and 4 fewer than Adam Jones the previous year. Right in the middle of Rookie of the Year territory.” – Graeme Perrow

“Flying under the radar most of the year, Leung just went about his duties in his first pro season. But he’s been one of the best young two way players since he burst onto the scene this summer during the Mann Cup. Like Chris Corbeil, his lacrosse IQ in the two-way game is extremely high. He’s an excellent one on one defender with lightning quick feet up the floor with an incredible stick. He played every game for the Necks, finished 7th in scoring and 2nd in LBs behind Snider.” – Teddy Jenner

“Logan Schuss led all rookie scorers with 36 goals and 73 points. The first overall pick came on strong down the stretch and was very impressive as one of the lone bright spots on the Minny offence.” – Ty Pilson

Chavez is an avid lacrosse player in Rochester and a journalist for the Democrat and Chronicle as well as a longtime Inside Lacrosse contributor. Email him at bob.chavez@nllinsider.com or go to RochesterSports.com.

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